As an animal welfare organization, your chief concern is obviously the health and well-being of animals.

But in order to achieve that lofty (and undoubtedly worthy) goal, your nonprofit will need to figure out a way to fundraise effectively and efficiently — read: inexpensively!

You’re in the right place to pick up some new tricks. See, even old dogs can learn a thing or two with the help of the internet.

Have I got your tail wagging in anticipation yet? Hold tight; here are the 6 low-cost fundraising ideas I’m going to cover in this article:

#1. Look into Pet-Themed T-Shirts.

#2. Go Bow-Wow for Crowdfunding.

#3. Try Pet Tags for Your Organization.

#4. Give Doggie Treats a Wag.

#5. Raise More Dough with Yappy Hour.

#6. Host a Critter Crawl (Fun Run).

Interested in more ideas for nonprofits outside of the animal welfare sphere? Be sure to check out Booster’s ideas for product fundraisers.

#1. Look into Pet-Themed T-Shirts.

It’s so true that we can learn a lot from our pets.

They’re infinitely wise…and so full of love and joy.

You know what else brings small joy to my life?

That super comfy T-shirt that I purchased to benefit my local animal shelter.

It may have only cost a few bucks at the time, but the amount of comfort and pure joy it’s brought me is truly priceless.

This is all just to say that one of the best ways you can raise money for your animal welfare organization is to host a pet-themed T-shirt fundraiser.

T-shirt fundraisers are:

  • Extremely affordable,
  • Easy to pull off,
  • And effective as advertising!

At most, your T-shirt fundraiser will set you back a few dollars a pop, but rest assured that the ROI is high enough to justify the initial cost.

Or, you can choose a free T-shirt fundraising platform at no risk of losing money! Each shirt that you sell will have some of the profit deducted to cover costs, but your organization will always stay in the “green.”

Not only are T-shirts affordable; they’re also incredibly intuitive. Everyone gets the concept of a T-shirt fundraiser. There’s no need to waste time explaining anything.

Best of all: that custom T-shirt that you create (with adorable pictures of your shelter’s animals, of course!) is going to last a long time.

Like I said earlier, I still have shirts from fundraising campaigns years ago that I continue to wear to this day. And you can bet that I get questions about the organization featured on it.

I proudly tell them, “This is a shirt that I bought to support my local shelter. If you’re in a place to adopt a pet, you should absolutely look into their organization!”

That same scenario could easily happen to your nonprofit. It all starts with hosting a pet-themed T-shirt fundraiser.

What you should take away from this tip: If you’re looking for a way to raise money and awareness for your animal welfare organization for years to come, look no further than T-shirt fundraising.

#2. Go Bow-Wow for Crowdfunding.


The word around town is that crowdfunding is the way to go for both smaller and larger nonprofits alike.

Hold on a second, though: what exactly is crowdfunding?

To put it in layman’s terms (“Explain it to me like I’m 6!”), crowdfunding is the raising of funds from a large number of people — even if it means that many of the contributions are on the small side.

There are, of course, crowdfunding situations where some donors are major gift contributors.

But the essence of a crowdfunding campaign comes down to the way it’s run. Typically, it involves a nonprofit (like your animal welfare organization) giving its most active influencers the tools they need to be able to fundraise on behalf of the organization.

These tools are usually something along the lines of:

  • A link to a designated crowdfunding page,
  • Pre-written copy for social media posting,
  • A script for fundraising in person,
  • And any other necessities a fundraiser might require.

Their task, should they choose to accept the challenge, is to reach out to their respective networks — online and in real life — to get them to donate to your cause.

Pro-tip: it really helps to sell your fundraising efforts if you toss in a few unbearably cute animal videos and maybe an irresistible picture or two. Make sure you equip your influencers with ample (fuzzy) material.

Before you know it, your fundraising campaign is going to skyrocket, thanks to the help of your loyal supporters. Their friends, family members, and even their coworkers will likely become fans, if not members, of your organization in no time. Especially since they’ve gotten that personal stamp of approval from your existing supporter!

Long story short, crowdfunding is a two-paws-up idea when it comes to low-cost fundraising.

What you should take away from this tip: Look into crowdfunding as a way to leverage your existing donor base without expending extra energy or funds to drum up new supporters!

Click here to learn about Booster’s solution for crowdfunding for your Animal Welfare Organization.

#3. Try Pet Tags for Your Organization.

booster-getfullyfunded-low-cost-fundraising-section-header-3It’s truly a terrible thing when a pet goes missing.

Your nonprofit can be a part of the solution to this large and looming issue for mindful pet owners.

“How?” You ask.

By hosting a pet tag fundraiser for your animal welfare organization, your nonprofit can help pet lovers rest assured that their loved ones have IDs, and you’ll be raising money for your organization in the process.

It kills two birds with one stone (for lack of a more pet-friendly metaphor!).

Getting started with a fundraiser like this one will take a little bit of research and maybe a dash of inspiration.

Be on the lookout for local pet shops that may have deals on purchasing bulk tags. If you can’t seem to find a business in your area that will cut your organization some slack, you may want to try looking online.

There are plenty of sites that will allow you to custom order pet tags at a reasonable rate.

Once you’ve found a supplier, the most important ingredient to making this low-cost fundraiser a success is the marketing.

A great, cost-effective way to get the word out quickly is simply through your nonprofit’s email newsletter.

Give your mailing list and your loyal subscribers a head’s up through your monthly or weekly publication.

Be sure to include pictures of the adorable tags they could purchase for Fido or Fluffy.

In addition to sending out info via email, you might also consider:

  • Tacking up flyers around town,
  • Posting about it on social media,
  • Putting info up on your website,
  • And making announcements at meetings.

When people learn about this fundraiser, they’re bound to jump for joy! Because, as I mentioned earlier, this endeavor serves a dual purpose, both of which help animals.

What you should take away from this tip: Research pet tag fundraising as a low-cost way to raise money for your nonprofit as well as a way to keep the animals in your area safe and sound.

#4. Give Doggie Treats a Wag.

booster-getfullyfundedd-low-cost-fundraising-section-header-4Along the same lines as the pet tag fundraiser, a doggie treat fundraiser is great on many levels.

For one, doggie treats make pets and pet owners alike happy. Who doesn’t love to give their little Rover or Scooby a treat when he’s been a good boy?

On another level, they also make wonderful gifts for dog owners — meaning even your supporters who don’t own dogs themselves can get involved and purchase a few.

Additionally,  they’re inexpensive, so everyone all around can feel good about indulging!

And last (though certainly not least), the sale of these biscuits directly benefits your animal welfare organization!

All of these are great reasons to look into incorporating doggie treats into your low-cost fundraising repertoire.

By no means do you have to host a stand-alone doggie treat fundraiser — although nothing says  that you can’t do that.

One great idea for getting doggie treats in all the right paws is to make them a part of your next live fundraising event.

If you’re hosting a silent auction, for instance, you may want to feature a jar or two full of these delectable delights. Auction them off to the highest bidder, and you’ll be sure to rack up the donations from devoted dog lovers.

Likewise, if you offer up doggie treats at your next 5K event, you’re bound to intrigue participants who love to run with their pups.

Whichever route you choose to market those tasty dog bones or biscuits, just be sure to play up all of the benefits of purchasing a premium pet treat as a form of donating!

What you should take away from this tip: Doggie treats are worth looking into for your next low-cost fundraiser for various reasons, and they work really well when paired with live fundraising events.

#5. Raise More Dough with Yappy Hour.

booster-getfullyfunded-low-cost-fundraising-section-header-5What could be more fun and entertaining than being a part of a nice happy hour?

Participating in a yappy hour, of course!

For those who don’t know, a “yappy hour” follows the same principles as a human happy hour, but it adds that extra special element: our canine friends.

You read that correctly: a yappy hour is just like a happy hour with drinks and hors d’oeuvres, but the pups are invited as well… which means…

If you want to host this kind of fundraiser for your organization’s members, you’ll have to:

  • Find a location that can handle pets and people alike,
  • Create a menu for canines as well as humans,
  • And, of course, come up with appropriate decorations for the occasion.

With those stipulations in mind, you can start planning this fun, furry fiesta.

As far as treats go, in the winter you can offer up the doggie biscuits that I mentioned earlier, and in the summer, you can look into ice cream pops for pups.

Delight your members with bubbly mimosas in the summer and cozy hot toddies in the winter.

Pick the perfect pairings, and you’ll definitely have all parties panting for more!

The best part (aside from being able to attend a happy hour with your furry best friend) is that everyone in attendance will be there to help raise money for an awesome cause.

Because it’s such a low-key, low-cost event, the ROI should be substantial. And if it’s a hit this year, you can always make it a staple for your organization’s annual fundraising strategy.

If you’re interested in more ways to make your members feel appreciated, be sure to check out this guide to membership and association management.

What you should take away from this tip: If you’re in the market for a fundraiser that everyone can attend, you should certainly consider hosting a yappy hour for your nonprofit’s members.

#6. Host a Critter Crawl (Fun Run).

booster-getfullyfunded-low-cost-fundraising-section-header-6This final idea is purrfect for all of your active supporters.

They’ll stop chasing their tails when they hear that your organization is finally hosting a “critter crawl.”

In essence, a critter crawl lets supporters run wild while they raise money for your nonprofit. Okay, so maybe they’re not literally running wild; there’s a definite route, a starting point, and a finish line.

But you catch my drift!

A critter crawl is, for all intents and purposes, just a regular fun run that benefits an animal welfare organization, like an animal shelter or a humane society.

The best place to get started with planning this particular kind of fundraiser is deciding where exactly to host it.

Sniff around town and try to dig up some sponsorships and partnerships with local businesses. Having them on your side will make the whole process easier, and they may have some splendid ideas for locations in addition to helping fund, stock, and advertise for the event.

As soon as you’ve pinpointed the route for the race (and you’ve rounded up some support from the community), you can begin to advertise for the event.

Pro tip: Order T-shirts ahead of time to ensure that they arrive before the day of the race.

On the day of the race, set up clear signs to direct people where to:


  • Park their cars or bikes,
  • Register or sign up last minute,
  • Line up for the start of the fun run,
  • And where to pick up their race packets.

When people know precisely where to go at all times, they’re bound to have a better time.

Another surefire way to make your organization’s critter crawl a tail-waggin’ good time is to have fun yourself.

Your attendees want to see that you’re enjoying the event as much as they are, and you deserve to have a blast after planning such a fabulous fundraiser!

Looking for more warm and fuzzy fundraising ideas? Take a peek at Booster’s extensive list of fundraising ideas.

What you should take away from this tip: Critter crawls are marvelous for raising money and awareness while encouraging fun and fitness.

Whether it’s a fundraiser or just plain fundraising, there are so many options for your animal welfare organization to choose from.

From doggie treats to yappy hours, and yes, even critter crawls, you’ve got a veritable smorgasbord of low-cost fundraising goodness at your fingertips.

So try one — or try all; it’s up to you!


headshot-kerri-mooreWritten by:

Kerri Moore is the Director of Marketing at Booster, Created by CustomInk. She and her team help create content aimed at maximizing organizers’ fundraising potential and furthering their mission to raise awareness for the cause or passion that means the most to them.

I hear this all the time.

“Where do we find rich people to give to us?”



No. No. No.

If you’re looking for rich people, that tells me you care more about the money than the donor, and my friend, that is BACKWARD!

If you want to be wildly successful at fundraising and fully fund your budget, you need to value your donors as partners.

It’s like this: the goose is more valuable than the golden eggs she lays.

Get it?

Your nonprofit donor is valuable for the donation they make now and all the future ones they’ll make, too.

So, instead of looking for rich people, look for people who LOVE your organization’s mission and want to see you be successful.

 nonprofit donor

Time to get strategic about finding new donors

Being strategic about finding new donors can save you a lot of time and trouble, and bring you donors who will stick around a long time.

So why aren’t more nonprofits using a winning strategy to find new donors?

I believe they haven’t thought it through or they’re just doing whatever is in front of them to get new donors in the door. They’re using shame and guilt, which might work short-term, but are really bad strategies for finding donors who will hang around long-term.

nonprofit donor3 Common Mistakes

Here are 3 common mistakes made by nonprofits looking for new donors.
1. The Passion Myth. You may think that because you’re passionate about your cause, everyone else is, too. But the truth is, they probably aren’t. You’ll find a few people who are as passionate as you about your cause. And you’ll find more who care but don’t have the same level of deep concern. Stop expecting people to mirror your enthusiasm, and be willing to accept whatever level of concern they bring. You might be able to fan the flames a bit and engage them deeper in your work, but that will take effort and strategy.
2. Casting a wide net. Don’t try to appeal to your entire community. Remember, not everyone gives to charity, and of those who do, most have their favorites. Trying to get in front of your entire community is a “spray and pray” method – you’re sharing your message with everyone and hoping someone responds. It’s not usually effective. An example is getting a story in the newspaper or on TV. It’s easy to get excited about the hundreds or thousands of people who will see it, but there’s really only a small segment of the readers/viewers who will care, and of those, a smaller segment will actually take action.
3. Dry Pond approach. You’re not fishing where the fish are. You’re showing up wherever you can to speak or network and hoping that because your nonprofit does good work that people will support you. Then you’re disappointed when they don’t. This is why sometimes it’s a total waste of your time to go speak to a group or attend a networking event – they’re not the right audience for you, so they’ll listen politely, but at the end of the day, they’re not going to help you change more lives.
How do you avoid these mistakes and add hundreds of good, new donors to your family?

Ideal Donor Profile

Start by creating an Ideal Donor Profile to give you an idea of exactly who you’re looking for.

An Ideal Donor Profile identifies the top psychographics and demographics of your best donor, so that you can go find more people just like them.

Think about that: if you knew a few key details of your best donors, wouldn’t it make donor acquisition a lot easier?

It doesn’t have to be complicated to figure out.

Sit down with a blank piece of paper and think about your top donors. Jot down their names. What do they have in common? Think about their age, their gender, their education, and whatever else you can think of. Write each one down.  If you can get at least 3-5 things, this will help.

When I worked at the food bank, I did this exercise. It was very unscientific. I just thought about some of our best donors. Some of them were our biggest donors and some weren’t, but they were consistent and often sent words of encouragement with their check.

nonprofit donor

Here’s what I figured out about them:

  • Women
  • Aged 55-70
  • College educated
  • Attended church services regularly
  • Volunteered in the community

I looked at that list and said “where can I go find more people just like that?”

After thinking a bit, it occurred to me that women’s groups at churches might be a place where I could find ideal donors easily and in large numbers. I started asking around to see who belonged to a women’s group where I could go speak, and got several leads. I put together a hot presentation with a clear call to action, and off I went. I remember at one church, almost everyone in the room signed up to hear more about our work and how they could get involved. Several ladies handed me a check before I left, and a few days later, I got a check from the group as a whole.

The key, really, is to know who your best current donors are, then go find more people just like them.

You’ll be way more likely to get donors that will give bigger and give longer.

Want more help with your ideal donor prospect? I’ll be going into detail at The Inspired Fundraising Retreat. You’ll get my worksheets to help you figure out the demographics and interests of your ideal donor, and get the chance to brainstorm it with others. Register at

You know how sometimes you look around at the work your nonprofit is doing and think “We need more money. If we had more money, we could ________.”

That kind of thinking is usually triggered by either lack or vision.

Lack looks like “we don’t have enough money and we need more to keep our doors open.”

Vision looks like “it’s time for us to grow and it’s going to take money to do it.”

A couple of years ago, Horse Haven of Tennessee needed to grow. I was (still am) a member of the Board and had just attended the annual event called “Dancing for the Horses.” It’s like “Dancing with the Stars” with the added bonus that our “celebrity” dancers compete not just on the dance floor, but also in fundraising. We crown a winning Dancer and a winning Fundraiser.

event revenueSo, two years ago, I sponsored a table at the event and attended with my friends like a good Board member should. It was a nice event, but not particularly profitable. Our gross that year was $16,000 and I think we cleared about $10,000. Not bad, but not great either.

I said to our Executive Director that it was time to ramp that event up. Having done events for many years, I could see places where it could easily improve. I told her we needed to start by putting a committee in place.

She said “Great. You’re in charge.”

Should have seen that one coming. 😉

So, I agreed to chair the committee, and I started recruiting members.

About that same time, we brought 4 hot, new members onto our Board. Two of them jumped onto the committee with me, and we added a couple more people from our volunteer pool. It wasn’t a big committee, but we were excited.

We started by reworking the sponsorship levels. Then we recruited great dancers who would also fundraise. We got sponsors. We beefed up the silent auction. We added opportunities for people to give to their favorite dancer at the event. When the dust settled at the end of the evening, we had raised $55,000!

event revenueAs you can imagine, there was a lot of whooping and hollering from the committee that night!

Hold on to your seats folks, ‘cause that’s not all!

Our committee is a bit competitive (probably an understatement), and the next year, we decided to play even bigger. A few new folks joined the committee, and we went after it again – dancers, sponsors, silent auction, etc.

We booked a swanky new venue. We specifically recruited dancers who could raise big bucks, not just anyone who would say “yes” to us. We got silent auction items we were sure our attendees wanted. And we recruited an army of volunteers to help pull the whole thing off.

The night of the event was fantastic. Before the event even started, we had raised more than the previous year, and when the smoke cleared at the end of the night, our grand total was $93,000 and change.

Soak that it. We went from $16,000 to over $93,000 in just 2 years. That’s over 5 times the money!

Let me tell you, it was a LOT of fun to be part of!

I’ve had a great time sharing that story with my clients and students. And here’s what everyone wants to know:

“How did you do it?”

I’ve thought a lot about what we did to generate that kind of increase. Here are what I believe are the 5 keys to our success:

1. We created a committee.

Don’t roll your eyes at this one. We put a committee in place and it made a world of difference.

The committee planned and executed the event. We gave the committee authority to make decisions about the event (this is critical!) and the committee’s work was driven by the committee, not by staff. That meant that the committee decided what needed to happen to make the event a success. Everyone took a role. And we were able to make decisions as a committee about the event without waiting for the Executive Director to decide. It made the planning work so much easier.

Now, I know that may sound scary, but here’s why it worked: The two committee leaders were Board members and had experience planning and running events. In other words, we knew what we were doing and there was trust between the committee leaders and the staff. Trust is critical for committee success.

We kept the communication lines open among committee members, with the staff, and with the Board, so that everyone knew what was happening with the event.

We set a clear goal for the revenue we wanted from the event, and we went after it. We broke that overall goal down into smaller goals for sponsorship, ticket sales, silent auction, dancer fundraising, and general donations. We knew exactly how much money each piece of the puzzle should bring in.

Creating a committee that works is an art form. You can put a bunch of people together and call them a committee, but if they don’t actually get something done, it doesn’t count. A functioning, wildly successful committee has a specific purpose, members know how they’ll measure success, and they’re exciting to be a part.

Many hands really DO make light work.

2. We had Connectors.

Connectors are people who have connections and are willing to bring them to the table. Several of us on the committee that first year had a couple of connections to bring in, and then there was Jacqui. She knew LOTS of people and got lots of them involved in the event. She brought in sponsors, she recruited dancers, she sold tables – she was like the Energizer Bunny when it came to raising money for the event!

We are lucky to have Jacqui. And I guarantee you there’s one in your community ready to help you. In fact, they’re probably already giving or volunteering to your organization – you just have to recognize them. He or she is not going to call you one day and say “Hey, I’m ready to leverage my contacts for you.” You need to identify that Connector among your supporters, then give him/her a reason to get involved.

And once they’re involved, keep it fun and make sure they’re supported. That can be as simple as making sure they have someone to talk with, plan with, laugh with, and vent to. And a little glass of wine every now and again doesn’t hurt either. 😉

3. We made things fun.

event revenueWe knew that the more fun people had at our event, the more they would talk about it in the community, and the easier it would be the next year. So, we paid attention to every little detail that we could to make it as fun as possible.

For example, instead of having an intermission where people just wandered around, we invited everyone to the dance floor for line dancing. Yes we did the Cupid Shuffle and the Electric Slide, and it was a HOOT! It revved up the energy in the room and got everyone smiling, which is a good thing if you’re raising money.

We also brought our nonprofit’s little mascot, Twinkie, in for the photo booth. Everyone loved getting their picture made with him and he was adorable in his top hat!

4. We upleveled our sponsors.

We reworked our sponsorship levels and then went after all the sponsorship money we could get. Previously, the biggest sponsorship level was $2,500. We all agreed that we would never raise the kind of money we needed unless we had lots of big sponsors. So we created sponsorship levels like this:

  • $10,000 Platinum Sponsor
  • $5,000 Gold Sponsor
  • $2,500 Silver Sponsor
  • $1,000 Bronze Sponsor
  • $500 Crystal Sponsor

Interestingly, in both of the years of crazy success, we didn’t have a $10,000 or a $5,000 sponsor. But we had 8 sponsors at the $2,500 level and lots at the $1,000 level. That proved to me that you don’t have to have people giving giant checks to your event to raise record-breaking money.

At the event, we made sure our sponsors had the best seats. We pointed them out to our Board members and asked each one to personally thank each sponsor during the evening (which was a win-win because it got the Board involved!). We had a special reception just for sponsors before the event started to give them a chance to have a first look at the silent auction and to mingle a bit.

We know that there are a couple of those $2,500 sponsors that might be willing to upgrade next year if we cultivate them correctly.

5. We believed we could do it.

Mindset is so important to fundraising. If you think you can be successful, you will. If you don’t, you won’t.

It never occurred to any of us that we couldn’t do better than $16,000. We just didn’t know HOW much more we could do. And it didn’t matter.  We knew that every dollar we raised would help take care of abused and neglected horses in the coming year, and we stayed focused on that.

We’re taking the summer off, but will start meeting again in September to plan the event for next year. Who knows what we’ll set as a goal!

Want to learn how to do this for your nonprofit? Join us September 28-30for The Inspired Fundraising Retreat in Nashville, TN. You’ll learn how to find ideal donors, warm their hearts, and move them to give. Earlybird registration is open now!


Happy New or Mid Year!

If your fiscal year starts July 1, Happy New Year!  Otherwise, Happy Mid Year!

Regardless of when you turn the page, this is a good time to stop and reflect on where you are.
We all get so busy in the doing that we often neglect the planning and evaluation, which are super important to your success.
So take a little time this week to check in with your plan. If you don’t have a plan,start here.
1. Review your fundraising plan. What’s working? What isn’t? What can be tweaked? Answering these questions will get you focused on the things that will be the best use of your time for the next several months.

2. Make sure your plan plays to your strengths. You don’t need to try to do something that is so far outside your comfort zone that you won’t ever attempt it. That’s just setting yourself up for failure. Going for something that’s a stretch is a good thing. Stretching so far that you break isn’t.

3. Make sure your revenue streams are diversified. You’ve heard the old saying “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” and it’s true for fundraising. A strong, healthy fundraising plan has money coming in from lots of different sources. Then, if you lose one, it’s a small bump in the road and not devastating to your programs.

4. Target these 3 goals. Most fundraising plans have a goal for the amount of money the organization needs. That’s good. The more specific the number is, the better. However, don’t forget there are 2 other big goals your fundraising plan needs to address:

  1. Dollars to raise
  2. Donor retention rate
  3. Donor acquisition number


5. Review specific strategies to make sure they still work. Look at what you have planned for grants, events, and individual donor giving. Will those activities still get you to your goal numbers? If not, it’s time to tweak them or even get rid of an underperforming strategy to make room for a strategy that has a better chance of success.

Once you’ve had a look at your plan, and feel confident that it’s optimized, here are some other things you can do to give your fundraising a boost:

Need help? We’ve got a few openings this summer for private clients to help you create a record-breaking fundraising plan. Email for more details.

When you meet someone and they ask what your nonprofit does, what do you say?

If you’re like most people, it sounds something like this:
“We’re a 501c3 nonprofit providing rescue services to at-risk populations in blah, blah, jargon, jargon, acronym, acronym, blah, blah…..”
Your listener tuned out about 2 seconds in.
Being able to clearly describe what your nonprofit does is crucial to catching people’s attention, raising funds and gathering support.
Unfortunately, most people haven’t taken the time to refine their message.

Instead of sharing something that stirs the listener’s heart and soul, they regurgitate a long, boring, memorized spiel that’s way too focused on the organization. It’s “us, us, us, we, we, we.” It’s ego-centric and it doesn’t work.
Seriously, who wants to hear that?
If you’re ready to raise big bucks deepen donor relationships, you need something better to say.
People need to understand what you do and it needs to strike a chord in their heart before they’ll reach for their wallet.

The 6 Word Attention Grabber

Here’s an exercise I often do in workshops.
Think about what you say when someone asks “What does your nonprofit do?” Grab a pen and jot it down.
Be sure to make it conversational and easy to understand.
Okay, got it?
Now, go back through it, and strip out all the jargon and acronyms. Rewrite it without all that mess.
Got something simple that anyone can understand?
Great. Now, try it again, and use half the number of words.
If you’re sucking in air, I understand.
It’s not as easy as it sounds to be brief.
In fact, it’s hard work to create something concise and inspiring to say.
Mark Twain, the great American writer, knew this. In fact, he said “If you want me to give you a two-hour presentation, I’m ready today. If you want a

5-minute speech, I’ll need two weeks to prepare.”
How much time are you currently spending preparing the words you share with donors and prospects?
If you’re like most people, you aren’t spending any time at all.  You’re using whatever pops you’re your head at the moment. You’re quickly stringing words together just so you can be done and move on to the next thing.
If you’re lucky, it resonates with your audience. If not, you’re boring them to tears.
Hmmm. Might need to spend a little more time on it, huh?
Back to the exercise. Got your half-sized introduction?
Good. Cut it down to just 6 words. I’m serious!
These 6 words will help you bridge the heart-wallet connection.
It’s a great exercise to engage your brain and think about it in a new way.
Remember that these 6 words don’t have to tell everything your nonprofit does. They just need to grab someone’s attention and engage their interest.

Real Life Example

I remember once speaking in a large room of about 200 people, when this lady way in the back raised her hand and said “Our cause isn’t sexy. We’re not like the food bank or the animal shelter.”
I said “Ok. What does your nonprofit do?”
She started in with “We’re a 501c3 medical facility conducting research blah, blah, blah.” About 5 minutes later, I stopped her and said “Try again and leave out all the jargon.”
She tried again and it was better, but still too thick and hard to understand.
“Pretend I’m a 6-year old kid. How would you explain it to me?”
“Oh. We do research on the brain.”
Good. Now we’re getting somewhere. So I asked “What are you trying to accomplish with your research?”
And she began again with the medical terminology and acronyms.
“Stop. I’m 6 remember? What will the research do?”
“Oh. We’re hoping to find a cure for Alzheimer’s.”
The entire room sucked in a gasp.
I looked at her and said “You’re working on a cure for Alzheimer’s and you don’t think that’s sexy??”
I’m guessing her problem was that she thought she needed to use the medical terminology to accurately explain the mission, and unfortunately it was turning people off.

I bet her messaging was dramatically different after that workshop!
Being able to clearly and concisely describe what you do will draw supporters to you like flies to honey. Using big words they don’t understand is like dousing them in vinegar.

Messaging Matters

When you’re meeting prospects, memorized mission statements don’t work.
They’re not nearly strong enough.
When you’re trying to cut through the noise and say something to grab people by the heartstrings, remember to keep it conversational, jargon free, and easy to understand.
And be concise. The longer you drone on, the more you lose people.
Every word counts. Choose them carefully.

get inspiredInspiring your donors to give is important.
Inspiring yourself and staying motivated is, too.
Let’s face it – fundraising isn’t easy. Some days, it’s downright hard.
You’ve got more to do than you can get done, and there’s always someone asking why you can’t raise more money.
I’ve been there. I know what it’s like.
I remember the days of working my booty off to get things done, and some well-meaning Board member would call with a “great idea” for me. Yeah. Good times.
The important thing is to know what stokes the fire of your heart, especially on days when you feel like throwing in the towel.
For me, it’s about visiting the front line of the organization. That always rejuices me.
But there’s this thing called balance. And we need it to be our best.
That means doing things outside of work that feed your creativity.
For me that includes gardening, horseback riding, and quilting.
Not sure what those might be for you?
Here’s a list of 50 ways to get inspired from my friend (and former client) Tammy Johnson. Tammy now runs Female Idea Tank and graciously gave me permission to share these ideas with you.
Try something new. Get going and have fun!

1. Do something that pushes you out of your comfort zone

2. Make a new music playlist

3. Play a game

4. Paint a picture

5. Look up inspirational quotes on Pinterest6. Fulfill a childhood dream

7. Make something with your hands

8. Ask someone you see today what they’re grateful for

9. Learn a craft10. Take a bath

11. Exercise

12. Declutter one area of your home

13. Go to a live concert

14. Take a break

15. Go to a workshop, seminar, conference or retreat

16. Take pictures

17. Watch TED talks about creativity

18. Write a letter to your 70 year old self

19. Write a letter to your teenage self

20. Start a creative “me time” journal

21. Redecorate a room

22. Join a choir or singing group

23. Read some inspiring blogs

24. Go for a drive

get inspired25. Make a dream board

26. Do some drawing

27. Dance

28. Experiment with makeup

29. Get a coloring book

30. Take a nap

31. Throw a party

32. Get outside

33. Turn off the TV

34. Daydream

35. Keep a sketchbook

36. Write a poem

37. Sing a song

38. Doodle

39. Watch a video of a baby laughing

40. Go for a walk

41. Try something new

42. Write a bucket list

43. Listen to music that moves you

44. Disconnect for a while

45. Watch an inspirational video

46. Give yourself a pressure-free day

47. Sing in the shower

48. Thank a mentor

49. Start a new good habit

50. Live like you mean it
There will never be a better time to do something to get inspired than now!
Take action and head into the second-half of the year with renewed momentum.

If you want money coming in consistently throughout the year, you need a big, loyal donor base of people who love your mission and want to see you win.

Once you build that donor base, your job is to engage and inspire them.

Inspiration is about connecting with them on an emotional level.
In practical terms, it’s about staying in touch with them and sharing about the good work your organization is doing.
The absolute easiest way to do that is to tell a heart-grabbing story.

Why stories

A heart-grabbing story is the easiest way to illustrate what your programs accomplish and help the donor feel something (compassion, anger, hope, etc.).

The right story will grab the donor by the heart strings and fill them with concern and optimism: concern for the life being changed and optimism that change is possible.

Here are some other reasons why you need good stories:

  • Straight facts and details are boring.  You ever tried to read a financial statement? Does it make you want to give? Thought not.
  • Stories engage people emotionally. A good story hits us right where we feel life most: our heart. Since giving is an emotional act, it makes sense to connect emotionally before asking.
  • We’re conditioned for stories. Since we were small, we’ve loved stories, whether they were read to us or shown in a movie. Heck, think about how hard it is to get tickets the first weekend of a great movie. Everyone loves a good story.

Here’s the truth: Your mission statement alone will NEVER inspire someone to make a game-changing gift to your nonprofit.  It takes a story to do that.
What makes a story heart-grabbing?
Boring stories don’t move people to give. Neither do stories that ramble and don’t really have a point.
So, your stories need to be concise and easy to read (no jargon).
The best story model to use is the “Before and After.”
It’s pretty simple really: Start the story by telling what life was like before the person/animal came to your nonprofit, and then tell about what their life is like now.
For example,
Renee was scared. A thunderstorm was about to roll through town. She sighed and loaded up her kids in the car to drive to Wal Mart.
There wasn’t anything she needed to buy – she just needed a safe place to stay until the storm blew over. 
You see, her small trailer didn’t feel safe. Every time the thunder boomed, her windows rattled. The sheets of rain seeped in around the leaky roof, and Renee was scared that the next gust of wind might blow the place down around her. It was like this every time a storm blew in.
She needed a better place to live, but didn’t know how to make it happen on her meager income. Then she heard about Habitat for Humanity.
She immediately signed up and began working toward her own home. She learned how to budget money for home repairs and spent hours putting in “sweat equity.” After many months of waiting and working, the big day finally came, and she couldn’t believe it as she stood on the porch and looked inside. Tears shone in her eyes as they handed her the keys to her new home – safe and solid, able to withstand any storm.
Notice how you feel after reading that story. Do you like the happy ending or the face that she had to work to reach her goals? Is there something else that draws you in?
Note that there’s not much said about the organization or their program. There’s nothing about how many people are served or the staff’s credentials.

You may want to give people more information, but they don’t need it. People want to know about the lives being changed, not how you do it. Focus on impact and outcomes, not programs and process.

Story collection tips

Collecting good stories can take some time. I suggest you set aside a few days to find some good ones, then write them up and put them in a story library so you have them later when you need them. (I used to do this once or twice a year and I always had plenty of good stories.)

Here are a few tips for collecting stories:

  • Ask your coworkers what they’ve seen lately that broke their heart. Don’t ask for a story – they don’t think about it the same way you do and won’t give you what you’re looking for. Also, be prepared to write it up yourself. They won’t have time and won’t understand how to put a story into the format you need. I used to go have lunch with the program staff and ask them to update me on the latest thing happening. That was usually enough to get them started talking.
  • Have a story contest and see which staff person or volunteer can give you the best story. Give prizes to the winners (Starbucks card, etc.). Again, be prepared to write these up yourself or edit anything you’re given in writing.
  • Spend time on the front lines of your organization and get the stories for yourself. Talk to people using your nonprofit’s services and ask them to share with you. Not everyone will be willing, but you’ll find a few who are. Be respectful and gentle as you ask questions – some people may have some strong emotions about using your nonprofit’s services, and like a physician, you should do no harm in this process.

Once you share a story, listen for feedback. Notice if someone mentions the story when you bump into them in the community, or if a donor emails you. I’ve seen donors tuck a note in an envelope with their check with a comment about a story.
When you start getting feedback like that and you see donations go up, you know you’re doing it right, and that you’ve engaged and inspired your donors.

Your thank-you letter is like an electric power tool, just waiting to be used.
If you’re like most nonprofits, your tool isn’t fully charged and doesn’t give you the results you’re looking for. It’s missing the mark, like a drill not fully capable of creating a hole.
If you want to build relationships with donors so you can fully fund your budget, you need a fully-charged drill that powerfully does its job.
You need a powerful thank you letter.

A more powerful letter

It’s not that hard to tweak your letter so that it has more impact and becomes the powerful tool you need it to be.
First, it needs to be warm, sincere, and prompt. It needs to include the right piecesso that it connects with the donor.
And it needs to contain a story.

Thank-you letter makeover

Recently, I helped the Girl Scout Council of the Southern Appalachians to do just that.
Here’s a look at the letter they had. It’s not a bad letter and it hits all the right points. The copy is good and it’s on brand.

What I don’t like about this letter is that it’s predictable. It sounds like letters from lots of other nonprofits, and that’s a bad thing. Your ultimate goal is for your letter to stand out so that donors feel something when they read it.
As a donor, if I read the first paragraph or so and it feels like all the other letters I get, I stop reading, because I know what’s coming. It’s more of the same, and I don’t want to waste my time. That’s a little harsh, but I think most people are that way.
Here’s the truth: If your letter doesn’t grab people from the get-go, chances are good that your donors aren’t reading it. So how effective is that letter in building a relationship with that donor?
The Girl Scout staff and I set out to jazz up their letter and add some emotional punch to it. We picked a story that was easy to love, and added a photo of the girl. We also added a quote from the girl to make more heart-centered.
Here’s the result:

At a glance, you can see how there’s more pizzazz with that photo, and that the letter is short, with just a few short paragraphs. That means it doesn’t look hard to read. This is an important point – people won’t read anything that looks like work to read.
The new letter starts strong. Instead of the letter starting

“On behalf of the many Girl Scouts and volunteers who will benefit from your generosity…”
…we have
“Thanks to you, Mansi is learning how service impacts more lives than just those being served.”
That’s a MUCH better start, wouldn’t you agree? It’s hooky and makes me as the reader curious to find out who Mansi is and what this means.
The story in this letter is a good one and it’s well told. We didn’t go on for paragraphs and paragraphs trying to fit in all kinds of details. Only the important pieces were included, and the story serves its purpose well.
There are several more really good things about this letter:

Now, the Girl Scouts have this great letter and will use it for a few weeks. As part of our Donor Acknowledgement Plan, they’ll change this letter up monthly to make sure that there’s always a fresh one ready to go.
Changing your standard thank-you letter monthly is especially important when you have donors making multiple gifts each year. You don’t want them getting the same old letter every time, do you? What message does that send?
Imagine if they give 3 times during the year, and get to read 3 different heart-warming stories about the work your nonprofit is doing. That’s donor-focused and will definitely positively charge how they feel about their experience.
And that’s a good thing.
Your challenge:
What can you take away from this Thank-You Letter makeover to make YOUR letter better?